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Truck intercepted with load of 126 rare turtles

A TRUCK smuggling 126 rare and endangered turtles was intercepted by Forestry Administration and military police officials in Kandal province on Friday in an operation that one official said was unprecedented in size.

A total of 95 yellow-headed temple turtles, which are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and 31 giant Asian palm turtles were seized in the raid, said Leslie Perlmen, programme manager at conservation organisation Wildlife Alliance. The cargo weighed 804 kilograms.

“There were two species on the bottom of a truck that were covered by an iron girding,” and only one of the animals was deceased, Perlmen said.

Svay Sokha, deputy military police chief of Kandal Stung district, said the operation marked “the first time such a large-scale crackdown on illegally smuggled turtles has happened” in the district.

Seng Leang, the head of the Forestry Administration office in Takhmao town, said Sunday that the turtles were possibly being smuggled from Thailand to Vietnam through Cambodia.

He added that the animals had been handed to the Wildlife Alliance, which he said would assist in their recuperation in Koh Kong and Kampong Speu provinces.

A report released this month by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) said two other operations targeting animal smuggling were carried out in Cambodia in the first three months of the year.

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